Say Hello to My Little Quote!

Marcus Aurelius left us this piece of great advice: “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Amen to that! And think what a privilege it is to breathe in a great quote, to think about a great quote, to enjoy a well-timed quote and to love a fine quote! Indeed, it is a rich blessing! In fact, as we conclude this series on quotes today, let me remind you that to be given a great quote is to be thrice blessed (blessed upon its reception, blessed upon its pondering and blessed upon its sharing). Never forget that. Quotes are verbal blessings that can enrich your life. I know that is true, because it happened to me. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, not because I was weird or anything (let’s

Here’s Quoting at You, Kid

I have argued in this series, that, as Gary Saul Morson has said, “Quotationality defines us. We are what we quote.” I firmly believe this, but many of you are still unconvinced. However, I would be willing to bet that you love quotes and already embrace hundreds of them, you just don’t know it. That’s right, I would be willing to bet you are a Subconscious Quotaholic. But already you scoff!  “Even if it was true, how could you prove it?” you ask. Well step right up to my quiz of the day. I’ll give you 15 movie quotes with a key word replaced. I am willing to bet that you can easily replace the “wrong” word with the right one, thus proving my point. Go ahead, make my day! Just try not to “correct” these erroneous quotes! “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little quote, too!” “Why don’t

May These Quotes Be with You

One of my favorite books is a collection of quotes entitled, If Ignorance is Bliss, Why Aren’t There More Happy People? It is one of a half-dozen quote books that I have in my library. Why so many? Because I believe in the power of a great quote. I feel Joseph Epstein could have been talking about me when he said, “I am not merely a habitual quoter, but an incorrigible one. I am, I may as well face it, more quotatious than an old stock-market ticker-tape machine, except you can’t unplug me.” Amen to that! But I also believe that what the world needs now is more people who “own” a great quote and know how to use it. A great example of this happened this past Sunday. After Outdoor Church, I was talking to Ken about how much I enjoyed our “bluegrass worship” service (Ken played guitar and

I Quote; Therefore, I Am

Stephen Wright once said something I wish I had said (okay, I wish I had said several things he has said; but for our purposes, I am thinking of one thing in particular).  He said: “I wish the first word I ever said was the word, ‘quote,’ so right before I die I could say, ‘unquote.’" Now that is brilliant!  See, I am a firm believer that you are what you quote (if you already forgot that Joseph Epstein quote from last time, shame on you—for punishment, reread last week’s blog). In other words, quotes enhance all aspects of our lives (at least, good ones do—they may even put a smile on your face). And while the word-picture is a little disturbing, William DeVault is right: “A quote is just a tattoo on the tongue,” which means we should always have a good quote ready to go at a moment’s

You Are What You Quote

The title of our blog post today comes from a great quote from Joseph Epstein (the essayist, short-story writer and editor, not the bagel brother) who said: “I believe it was Gayelord Hauser, the nutritionist, who said that ‘you are what you eat’; but if you happen to be an intellectual, you are what you quote.” Amen to that, brother, and pass the bagel! As you all know, I love a good quote. And for three very good reasons. First as David H. Comins said: “People will accept your idea more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.” Second, I also believe that Winston Churchill was right. I wish I was an original thinker and had numerous Ph.D.’s that would enable me to produce incredible insights and tremendous thoughts week after week, but that is definitely not me (as Popeye said, “I am what I am, and

The Right Quiz for Right-Thinking People

We start off with a quiz today. There are four questions. Which of the following (and you can check all that apply) were used to manage the Black Death when it was ravaging Europe? Medicines Quarantines Passports (individuals were given passports to identify themselves and tell where he/she had been) Spy networks (spies were sent out to monitor other cities to see if they had been exposed to the plague and would then warn the people back home) Running away Prayers Processions Which was the response of health officers to people who were not wearing masks during the Spanish Flu in San Francisco? Fine them $10 Throw them in jail Shoot them Remove them bodily from the city Where did the first recorded case of the Spanish Flu occur? Mexico Kansas Madrid Texas Which city handled the Spanish Flu epidemic better? New York Philadelphia Here is the question we have

Insights on Rights and Eating Delights (Part Two)

After last week’s shocking revelation that “Ring Around the Rosies” was NOT about the Black Plague, I decided to look into other nursery rhymes to see what they were not about. For instance, “Jack and Jill,” as is commonly reported, is not about the execution of Louis XVI of France (“broke his crown”) and of Marie Antoinette some months later (“came tumbling after”). I know this because the rhyme was published 30 years before Louis got guillotined. Plus, the original rhyme was not about Jack and Jill, but about Jack and Gill, two boys! “Rub-A-Dub-Dub” sounds innocent enough until you start to think about it. But its real meaning is even creepier. Apparently, this wonderful rhyme that we all recited while giving our kids a bath is actually a song about upper-class tradespeople (the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker) at a town fair getting caught peeking into the

Insights on Rights and Eating Delights (Part One)

I am not one to stir up controversy, and yet I feel compelled to do exactly that. I grew up knowing that the lines from a beloved nursery rhyme were actually sardonic words mocking the horror of the Black Death. From this knowledge, gained at such an impressionable age, I felt called to devote my life to sarcasm and mockery. As I grew older (and wiser), this belief in the “secret” meaning behind this rhyme was substantiated. The “Ring around the rosies” could only refer to the red rash that developed on the victims’ skin, a rash which would soon turn into painful black boils.  “A pocket full of posies” was clearly talking about the ancient practice of trying to ward off an airborne plague through pleasant odors (it is common knowledge that airborne viruses smell foul and can be fought off by a “mask” of pleasant aroma, hence, the

Might as Well Face It, We’re Addicted to Rights

Great things apparently, have happened while people were stuck in quarantine. For instance, Shakespeare likely wrote "King Lear" in quarantine. Isaac Newton, during the Great Plague of London in 1665, isolated himself and got to work developing calculus, analyzing light and color, studying gravity and, in his spare time, started developing his laws of motion (all in the same year!). Victor Hugo chose to escape Napoléon’s grasp by exiling himself in Jersey and, while he was there, wrote Les Misérables. During a cholera epidemic, Mary Shelley and her husband escaped to the countryside where they passed their time telling scary stories until Shelley figured out that the scariest story had yet to be written (she fixed that). And it was in seclusion that Edward Munch painted, “The Scream” (fact: while you may think “The Scream” is a painting of a man screaming, it is actually a man hearing a ghastly

Never Forgetting Real Church*

I read this story the other day** about a man and his grown son who were out looking at possible houses for the son to buy. When the owner came to the door, she immediately recognized the father as an old friend. “Larry?” she asked? The father responded with a blank look on his face. “Larry, it’s me, Elaine. We went to school together!” The father still did not recognize her. “How could you not recognize me?” she said jokingly. She invited them in; and while the son was looking around the house, she went to grab her old high school yearbook. She showed the father her senior picture, but still he had no recollection of who she was. “Let’s look at your picture,” she said and quickly flipped the pages until she came to his picture.  Under his photo, he had written, “Elaine, I will never forget you.” Real

Moving Biblically

Back in the good old days of the Black Death (aka, the Plague, the Magna Mortalitas, and the Pestilencia), cities faced an excruciating decision, sever all ties with the world or die. They chose, not unsurprisingly, to sever all connections to the rest of the world and to cut themselves off from all other cities, tourists and wayfaring strangers. But then came the town of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik, Croatia). In 1377, Ragusa was a very popular and busy sea port on the Adriatic. For them to cut themselves off from the world meant certain death. But to open their doors and let everyone in also meant certain death. Their solution: they legislated a trentino! Instead of sending merchant ships loaded with food and products away, they detained the whole ship and crew on a small island off the coast for 30 days. If they didn’t show any signs of the

Of Rights and Men (and Women)

Right off the bat, let me say, I am all for rights.  I was there in spirit on April 19, 1775, when embattled farmers stood against British tyranny and fought for their rights. I was also there on April 19, 1975, where we used our rights to gather lawfully to celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of that important event, to gawk at President Ford in person, and to protest the war in Vietnam. Three rights in one day!  (My best memory of that day was watching a protestor who may not have been in his right mind, step right up, break through the security line, and get gang-tackled by three secret service agents who had him dead to rights before he’d gone ten feet). And I could go on to substantiate my claim that I am all in favor of rights, and it would serve you right to have to read

The Silence of Our Friends

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” --Martin Luther King, Jr. Years ago, when we were church planting in Canada, we worked with a lot of new immigrants, mainly Chinese, but from other countries, as well. One of these new immigrant families many of you from River’s Edge will know, Chris and Debbie. Most of us can only imagine how difficult it is to immigrate to another new country as an adult. Everything is different. What you know to be true is often no longer true. I can still remember getting a call one day from Chris that someone had broken into their apartment and stolen several things. It was a traumatic experience. As we were talking, I asked if they had called the police. Chris

What to Expect While You Are Expecting (to Reopen)

I bet you have the same four categories. There have been movies I could not wait to see; and when I saw them, I was not disappointed.  I can still remember when I was a teen going to see The Three Musketeers and sitting there before the movie saying, “This is going to be great.” And it was. It had a great story. It had great swashbuckling action; and it had great actors with Michael York, Oliver Reed and Raquel Welch. At least, IMDB says York and Reed were in it. I only remember Raquel. The same was true about the first Lord of the Rings movie. We could not wait to see it; and from scene one, we loved it. But the opposite experience has also been true. There have been plenty of movies that I wasn’t expecting to be any good whatsoever, that turned out to be spectacular.

The Subway Voice

The Subway Voice Every time we go to New York City, I am struck by the subway voice. Now, it’s a little more down-home, country-sounding than I would have expected for a major East Coast urban center, but it still works. Basically, the voice has four jobs. It announces the doors are closing. It broadcasts the next stop. It alerts everyone that the train is arriving. And, most importantly, it warns people getting off the train to mind the gap.  See, the NY Transit Authority hates it when its passengers, upon exiting the train, misstep, stumble over the lip of the platform and then face-plant on the tile floor. It’s bad for tourism (although it’s great for dentists).  And so, every time the door opens, the voice calls out for us, please, to remember to “mind the gap.” There’s an awful verse in Philippians 3. After Paul argues that all

Impossible Questions, Part 7–So, What Is God Saying?

So, What Is God Saying? A year and a half ago, when we were looking for a puppy to fill the hole in our hearts left by Moose’s departure, we felt blocked at every turn. First, we thought no one would allow us to even adopt a puppy (we feared they would think badly of us because of Moose). Then, every dog we were interested in got adopted by some jerk before we could even get to see the dog.  Once we called in the morning and arranged a visit for that evening, but when we called back to say we were coming, we were told the puppy we wanted had been swooped up by someone else that afternoon (probably a Nazi). This happened several times, and we were beginning to wonder if God was with us or against us (Jo said, “with”; I said, “against”). Then we found the

Impossible Questions, Part 6–Is God Out to Get us?

Is God Out to Get Us? Let’s take an inventory of all that’s been happening in my life for the last two months. First, came the pandemic. Then came the leaking garbage disposal that spewed water in our cabinet. That was followed by the broken refrigerator that spewed water on our floor and through our floor. That led to replacing half of the ceiling tiles downstairs. Then the camera that we use to record Sunday mornings (my guess is that you would think that might be an important element of life these days) decided to flip the image on the viewfinder, so everything was upside down (annoying, but not devastating). Then the camera decided to turn off randomly during recording (very annoying and a little devastating). Then, for the last two weeks, the camera has chosen not to turn on until it wants to, sometimes not for hours (both very

Impossible Questions, Part 5–How Could I Forget?

How Could I Forget? The only good thing to come out of having no live hockey to watch is that the Bruins have been showing reruns of the games from their epic Stanley Cup championship in 2011. Trust me, these games were spectacular. Boston beat Vancouver in a final winner-take-all game seven and became one of the most loved teams in Bruins history. How loved? One woman tweeted that her husband had stated that the night the B’s won was the happiest day of his life. She immediately prodded him with, “Not our wedding?”  Now, the B’s winning it all wasn’t the happiest day of my life, but it was way up there! And you would think, as a result, that I would have almost perfect recollection of those games. But while I was watching the games again, it dawned on me, there are things I had definitely forgotten. For

Impossible Questions, Part 4–Job’s Job: The Limn

Director’s Note: Last week, for your consideration into why God allows suffering (and as part of our on-going series of impossible questions), I submitted a rather quick overview of the book of Job. Since Job’s job is to make things clear, I thought it would help. Apparently, it didn’t. For most of us, even after my blog, Job remains rather enigmatic. So today, to help clear things up from last week, we offer Job’s Job: The Limn. It’s like a Broadway play without the broadways. So, sit back and read the script in different voices and be introduced to all sorts of wonderful characters (15 of them, by my count) and enjoy Job like never before. Welcome to the River’s Edge production of Job’s Job: The Limn! Please note: Job’s Job was first performed at the Edge on a Friday night not so long ago. Anything that doesn’t strike you

Impossible Questions, Part 3: Job’s Job

When I was a kid, I loved watching The Wild, Wild West. It was everything I wanted in a TV show. It was a horse-riding-western featuring a gadget-toting secret-agent man set in a mission-impossible, cliff-hanger motif with a cool theme song. When the network cancelled it, I was crushed. I even recorded the theme song from the very last episode ever (using my Craig recorder with the cool stick-shift control) so that I would never forget it. I was also proud of myself. While the rest of the world would soon forget the melody, I would be able to hum it on cue (and I heard the girls were really into guys who could hum TV theme songs! (Fun Takeaway #1 for those interested – they were lying!). And then exactly one week later (same bat time, same bat channel), there was The Wild, Wild West on my TV! I

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